Tell Us a Story – What Should An Online Learning and Teaching System Do?

The Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation committee is preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for learning and teaching systems and services. Depending on the responses we receive we may upgrade Blackboard or replace it, and may also add other services needed for learning and teaching online. The committee would like to invite you to submit stories (use cases) about how you would like the system to work. Our goal is to incorporate a variety of use cases into the RFP so that we get more information back from vendors about how flexible and usable their software really is than we would get by simply asking them to complete a checklist of features.

One way to write a use case is to imagine one way you would like Blackboard (or other systems you use) to facilitate the work of instructors and students. It could be something Blackboard doesn’t do at all or that it should do differently. The key is to focus on a specific story or scenario that describes how the system would facilitate learning and teaching.

Some Notes on Writing a Use Case

Don’t worry about getting all the details of the story right. If you teach, start by describing a pedagogical scenario, including the objectives and activities or simply outline a process and list the players/actors in the story. For example, the objectives could be to develop student critical thinking and the activities may include peer-review. The players could be instructors, teaching assistants, students, and any others. Actors can also be components of a system like a bulletin board, gradebook, or calendar. If you are a student, you may want to start by describing a learning activity such as the need to submit a e-portfolio assignment, loaded with video, design and graphics. You may then want the instructor to review your project and insert video or other relevant feedback.

Don’t worry about how the system should work when there is a problem. Just focus on how people should work with the system in order to get the job done. Tell a story that ends in success. If we decide to add your use case to the RFP we’ll follow up with you to get more details if they are needed.

Here’s a relatively simple example of a use case followed by questions we are working on including in the RFP:

A professor wishes to add significant events to the online course calendar. The events include assignment release and due dates, extra test preparation seminar dates at times that are not in the official course schedule, test dates, and events that advise students when they should begin working on various stages of an assignment.

In some cases a course shell may include multiple course sections – each with different dates for each event.

In other cases individual students may wish to create events in their own course calendar.

  1. Describe in detail the options, and any required workarounds, to accomplish all of these scenarios in your system.
  2. Describe the options and any required workarounds to share this information with the student’s Ryerson Google calendar. Make sure you include as one option how a Google secondary calendar for the course could be populated and made visible to the student.
  3. Ryerson already populates student’s primary Google calendars with course schedule information. If Ryerson wanted to ensure that the information provided by the LMS would not duplicate this information in a secondary Google calendar but did want the information in the LMS course calendar, how would that be accomplished?

How to Send in a Use Case

Please email your use cases to lms@ryerson.ca by Tuesday November 12 and please accept our thanks in advance!

– Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Committee

8 thoughts on “Tell Us a Story – What Should An Online Learning and Teaching System Do?

  1. the material posted on the course which are modules are fine, but each prof posts at least 3 readings which are usually articles each at least 15 pages for each module. how in the world someone like me with 6 courses which 3 of them are on line can keep up with all those readings plus the module’s material. they are designed to be the only course taken by a student, and the expectations are too high. I think because there is no physical teaching the professors don’t realize that is too much to post and it is almost impossible to keep up if you take more than one on line course.
    some of the professors don’t reply to emails and since this is the only way of contact in online courses it creates stress. for example for me from beginning of the semester i am waiting my prof to reply that how can i write my online tests to use my accommodation of 50% extra time(I am an access center student). I had to drop my day time courses and take three online courses at Sep 15, because my medical situation this year. now I am stressed in a point that i don’t know what to do.

  2. I am in the part time BTM degree program and many of the courses that I take are online. I think that it would be great if the DE Professor would prepare a weekly video-taped lecture – in addition to the module notes – and post this online for the class to see. Video links to relevant educational films would also be appreciated, as would on-line multiple choice tests, end-of-chapter Q&A, etc…. similar to what is found on the companion website for most textbooks.

  3. The marks posted on blackboard should also have a graph showing class average marks distribution as most students are curious about it. If we can have a system for online chatting with other students and TAs for course discussion, that would be great.

  4. I don’t think a video lecture is necessary for all courses but I do agree that additional materials such as video links can be useful for courses like history courses. I thought this was very effective for the history course that I took because the student could see the perspective of the people who produced the information at that time. I do like the idea of video links because it can enhance other types of learning.

  5. Learning and Teaching Systems and Services RFP
    MIDWIFERY EDUCATION PROGRAM (MEP) departmental needs for virtual classrooms…if we’re to make this into a case….the case could include a midwifery student preparing to facilitate a weekly 3 hour tutorial in which a case scenario will be presented and the 10 other students and instructor participate in the discussion of the case. The facilitating student is given the powerpoint of the case by her instructor and during the week, when she gets a chance between births (any time during a typical 24 hour period) she prepares details for the powerpoint and modifies slides. She then uploads the powerpoint and tries to prepare to moderate the tutorial for that week. She places an agenda in the room. she tries to figure out everything works and how to address students who check in and know who raised their hand first during class to allow for discussion. Her course learning is very much self directed and the responsibility is up to her and her classmates to integrate information from various texts, journal articles, professional clinical guidelines and her own experience working with clients and midwives in the community. There is a lot to remember, sometimes overwhelming in volume and degree of critical thinking required. So it’s important that the engagement in the classroom be as problem free as possible. Students may be both PC and Apple users. Although, not ideal, some may even have to access the class through an old hospital computer, their smart phone or a tablet while they are rushing from a birth or clinic responsibilities. Many may have to use Wi-Fi and don’t have access to a LAN line.

    The MEP utilizes web-conferencing/distance learning for the delivery of 75% of course content in our 4 year baccalaureate program. As such, both the synchronous and asynchronous learning requires a system that is easy to navigate for busy, multitasking educational consumer-users (students and faculty alike).
    Starting with the first year courses these are some of the requirements that the MEP for each course:
    1. a shell is required where course outlines, readings, lists, a discussion room that supports multiple interactions simultaneously (more than simply email but more of multiple level chats or a forum) where several students collaborate simultaneously and group study occurs;
    2. areas for posting of assignments so that each assignment is in its own folder and students may submit the completed assignments and instructors view and grade assignments (note that students should also be able to receive their graded assignments from this same portal and then if they desire students should be able to post their graded assignments for their peers to benefit from). Both instructor and student should be able to download the graded assignment.
    3. access to on-line examinations/quizzes;
    4. access to on-line interactive assignments (such as a virtual patient simulation to test decision-making and problem-solving; e.g., PINE?);
    5. embedded links to other internet sites or web-based material;
    6. If the DMP, Art Department or other body (e.g., PINE) has the ability to create Avatars, decision-making learning tools that utilize a “second-life” or game technology, there should be a way to interface this technology with the virtual classroom. Perhaps a “break-out room” that provides a portal to this
    7. access to an interactive tool that allows students to submit their clinical evaluation tools and faculty/course feedback evaluations;
    8. Some sort of portal that will be interactive in which to submit births with detailed descriptions and this portal can be opened and closed by the instructor or program manager at the start and completion of each clinical course;
    9. Each course shell should have the ability to have a “classroom” for web conferencing for synchronous learning each week. The classroom should be left open and available at all times for students to enter and leave at will, even when the instructor is unavailable. There should be a part of this classroom that is dynamic and students have access to change its configuration at will for their own presentations. There should be a part of this classroom that is static and the instructor only has the authority to change its configuration or layout. The instructor should not need to reconfigure a new classroom every week for each lecture; however there should be an area in the classroom where recordings of previous lectures/classes could be stored. These recordings should be controlled by the instructor and students only have access to listen to them but not to modify them.
    10. This classroom should have the ability to let the moderator “share their desktop”, upload powerpoints/word/pdf/jpeg documents. This classroom should have a timer that allows time keeping; ability to poll; ability to “raise your hand”, set up a queue to indicate whose turn it is to speak (Roberts’ Rules of order). The moderator should be able to give audio/video/presentation rights to participants. Participants should have access to emoticons (smile, frown, applause, confusion, etc. That are easily identifiable to viewers). There should be a way to chat for everyone to see or to chat between participants privately.
    11. The powerpoints shared with the class should provide the presenter with the ability to see outline notes without the class seeing them in a way that is unobtrusive as the presenter goes through each slide. There should be pods available to the presenter/moderator that are not visible to the participants. So for example the agenda and chat and ppt may be available to all but the presenter only will see the NOTEs pod to take notes, or the file share pod from which filees may be shared. If a web tour is started, the visualization to the participants should be large and easy to see. When a document is shared on the powerpoint or in a pdf, there should be a way to ZOOM in to make the font larger for all to see details (for example of a figure or table) and the ZOOM back out to continue with the presentation. This would decrease the need to go from one pod to anther in order to show an item that is in the presentation.
    12. There should be a way for the moderator to block the chat bar in order to encourage verbal discussion or a way for the moderator to simply send a check message to only 1 participant and not to the rest (eg. The chosen student facilitator for the day).
    13. The access to the instructor’s virtual classroom should be provided for “invited guests” (or Ryerson students using their student ID and password) or for “special guests” (guest speakers, community midwives, healthcare professionals (as in the Interprofessional Courses), students from other campuses (as with international; e.g., Tanzanian students, Laurentian or McMaster students). Control for participants’ list should be left in the hands of the instructor who configures the parameters of the classroom.
    14. The “course shell” should remain open from at 1 month prior to the beginning of class enrollment until at least 1 month after classes are complete.
    15. Recordings should be made accessible to students for studying purposes until 1 month following the completion of the course.
    16. Recordings of classroom material should be made available to the instructor following the course for an indefinite period of time, in a form that can be downloaded into other platforms; such as “windows player”, “real player” for purposes of faculty evaluation & development, further course development or evidence of pedagogy for tenure and promotion purposes. These recordings might also be used to by the MEP to teach other groups of students/new faculty and so there should be the capability to provide them in the form of pod casts in future and stored in the MEP LAB/library.
    17. There might be a way to provide these recordings using Camtasia (Sp?) or anther DMP platform.

    • Wow! That’s fantastic information. I wondered reading it if you have tried Adobe Connect and what you thought of it if you did.

  6. One other note: students are placed all over the province of Ontario for experiential learning/field placements. Their internet access is varied. They rely on these web conferencing platforms to gain vital information and to connect with their peers for emotional support. The platform needs to accommodate the varied needs of users 24 hours around the clock.

  7. It would be helpful to view a photo roster with courses, not just names. This would help faculty learn the names of students quicker for those courses that are actually small enough to do so. I have used a system like this in another university where student photo IDs were linked to their name.

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